Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Off The Net For Awhile; Going Biking -- December 7, 2016

The Market

I forgot when I first bought shares in Burlington Northern railroad (BSNF/BNI) but I remember distinctly the hour and the day I made the decision. That was decades ago. I was incredibly upset when Warren Buffett bought BNI. BNI paid a great dividend; BRK pays no dividend. During the Bakken boom BNSF did very, very well but during the Bakken bust and recession one wonders how it would have performed; I doubt that it would have doubled in value. BRK-B did (see graph below). I've suggested to my wife that she send Warren Buffett a Christmas card this year.

Warren (or an analyst or someone) says under Trump's tax plan, Berkshire Hathaway could add $29 billion to its book value (no links; multiple sources). All things being equal, a $29 billion boost in Berkshire Hathaway's book value "translates" to a BRK-B share value of $179.

Job Watch

Rate of hiring declined at fastest pace since 2013 -- BLS report, today, December 7, 2016, hopefully not a day that will live in infamy.

The Literature Page

I'm currently reading a book about computers: Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars, Nathalia Holt, c. 2016, already a bestseller. There's another book out there also but I'm blocking on the title, author -- a book my wife is reading, but not me. Now there's a third book on computers out this year. I saw it at the library yesterday and it is reviewed in today's Wall Street Journal: The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars, Dava Sobel, c. 2016. The link to the WSJ review is here.


I'm always struck by something that some literary critic pointed out a long time ago: the universality of a parent (usually a father) having to divide up his/her inheritance among three children (usually sons). The most famous, no doubt, was Shakespeare's (or rather Sir Henry Neville's) play, King Lear, in which a very old man must decide to which of his three daughters he would leave his kingdom. A real life story was that of Constantine the Great.

Constantine the Great left Constantinople (half-built) and his eastern provinces to his son Constantius. The latter's two brothers inherited the western and central provinces. Constantius continued the building of Constantinople that his father had started. See this link for more.

The Political Page

Now that the election is over, and hopefully the results will stand despite the shenanigans in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, I am watching MSNBC "Morning Joe" again. And loving it. During the show this morning it was mentioned that Donald Trump, named "Man of the Year" by Time magazine would be interviewed on NBC's "Today Show." I would never in a million years watch "The Today Show" but with Trump's interview, I made the million-year exception.

Listening to the interview (running in the background while I was doing more important things, like making waffles), I was struck by this. When a guest is interviewed on a talk show, the media sets the agenda. The media has their questions prepared in advance, and, in general, unless the interviewer is incredibly bright (rare), there is no real discussion. The interviewer is unable to ad lib questions that would be appropriate questions based on the interviewee's answers. It takes a skilled interviewee to move the interview in the direction he/she wants but is always thwarted by the next question: the next question that was prepared before the interview. The interviewer sets the agenda; the interviewer decides what is important and the viewer just goes along.

Trump has figured this out, and this is why he tweets. Every tweet has the potential to set the agenda, and every tweet has the potential to keep the mainstream media off-balance. This is why the mainstream media is so upset with his tweeting.

Several times during the interview, Matt Lauer -- in fact, not several times, but it seemed to be a major focus -- Matt Lauer asked about Trump's "addiction" to tweeting and if Trump would be able to "break that addiction." Trump said that, in fact, he is quite restrained when it comes to tweeting. Matt Lauer's incessant questioning on the tweeting issue suggests to me that mainstream media is quite afraid of where this (Presidential tweeting) will go.

Breaking news won't be breaking news on CNN or NBC if President Trump breaks the news first on Twitter. President Trump currently has 25 million followers on Twitter and that number will continue to grow once he becomes president.

Journalists will now get their news from two sources: the Drudge Report and President Trump via Twitter. And they will get their analysis of presidential news from Rush Limbaugh.

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